|After all that cycling we thought we ought to have a break and spend a couple of days travelling through an area called The Caitlins which is right down at the bottom of the South Island and meant to be very spectacular. Before we left Dunedin we paid a visit to Baldwin Street which is the worlds steepest street, as marked in the Guinness Book of Records no less (Norris would have been able to tell you that!)
It is indeed very steep and has steps cut into the pavement otherwise it would be very difficult to walk up. It rated as 1:2 at its steepest part. We walked up & down first and then took the crudbucket up to see if it would make it. I'm impressed as it actually coped alright. Our first stop in The Caitlins was at Hilltop Backpackers in Papatowai (well you have to mix with the riff raff every now and again!!). We were told that Papatowai is a little "rural" so we needed to take our own food. Halfway there we picked up a hitchiker (more mixing with the commoners), a guy from Oregon who also happened to be going to Hilltop Backpackers. This gave us the feeling thet it was going to be even more of a one-horse place than we thought! We got there and it was really rural but fantastic. It's just a couple of bungalows on a hill but the view is out over the fields and to the sea so it was really quite something. Had a spot of lunch, met one of our fellow backpackers, a very quiet girl called Natalie, and went out on a sightseeing mission. The Caitlins is made up of lots of small things to see, like a 30 min walk to waterfalls or a 10 min walk round the lake so you'd find it quite difficult to get about without a car. We stoppped and walked to a waterfall and also visited Jacks Blowhole which is a large hole, about 200 metres inland with sea roaring in and out at the bottom. We were so impressed that we took a small video of it on the digital camera but you'll be spared that as this cafe doesn't have the facilities for us to load it onto the site. It was still really, really windy so we sat and watched the sea whipping about like a mad thing and then went to have a look at Cathedral Caves which are meant to be THE thing to see. They are only accessible at low tide so it's a 15 min downhill walk to the beach and then 10 mins across to the caves. We hadn't factored in the wind though so as we hit the beach it was like getting sandblasted in the face. A free dermabrasion treatment!! Anyway, we battled on to the caves which are very impressive but the weather was awful so we didn't stay long. Mad had visions of the tide coming in and being trapped so wasn't over-keen to stay too long. Back at the hostel we met our other fellow backpackers - a very snotty girl from the UK who never bothered to introduce herself. The other girl there was also from Germany. Her name was Spanka (yes, Spanka!). We never established if it was her first or last name - somehow it didn't seem right to ask. Anyway, her English was perfect and she was really nice. She'd come to go birdwatching on Stewart Island and got very animated when we started talking about Tui beer (the local brew). She kept asking if we'd seen Tui and we kept saying yes, it's all over the place and she looked very surprised. After about 5 minutes of this we broke the language barrier and established that she was talking about Tui the species of bird whilst we in our ignorance has simply assumed it was the local alcoholic beverage. Doh! What a pair of ignorant chumps we are!
Next morning we set off for Invercargill. Lizzie from the supported cyclists group had told us that it was a dump and she was right but more about that in a sec. We stopped off on the way to visit McLean Falls which is quite a spectacular sight and very noisy. It makes me wonder that if a small waterfall like that is so noisy, what must it be like to hear Niagra Falls?? After that we went ot visit Slope Point, the most southerly point of New Zealand. It was so windy there that you could lean your full body weight in to the wind and still not fall over. Not a place for toupe wearers.
From there on to Invercargill which I'm slightly sad to report is the first real dump that we've been to. It's another town in a Scottish styl-ee, like Dunedin, but not as nice. We arrived at about 3.30 pm on a Saturday to find that the whole town was shut! The people looked like they had been freshly exported from a grim Glasgow housing estate and it has the cheek to call itself "The "Friendly City".
On arrival in Invercargill, we thought we'd check out the Lonely Plant to see what wonderous things there were to do. At this point we realised we'd lost it and so embarked on an, eventually successfully, mission to find a book shop. The book was last seen on the back seat with our American hitch-hiker friend. He either picked it up in error thinking it was his or is a theiving git. We'll never know! Needless to say Mad and Steve have feet in different camps on this one.
Armed with a new book we pointed the crudbucket at Te Anau, a Fiordland town, and left Invercargill, the exported Glaswegians and the forgetful/theiving hitch-hiker behind. Te Anua update to follow.